Saturday, 20 March 2010

Stripping off in Fitzroy Square

One thing you can't help noticing as you walk round historic neighbourhoods is how many front steps are covered up, usually by cement or asphalt, sometimes by another layer of reconstituted stone or perhaps by tiles. In some cases the depth of the covering is such that the railings either side are shortened by three or four inches.

The good news is that the original stone is usually still there, underneath, and it can be a real revelation to uncover it - suddenly the proportions all work again and the appearance of the property as a whole is improved.

The picture shows the steps down to the basement at 6 Fitzroy Square in London, home of The Georgian Group. The basement here was radically altered by the bank that owned the building for the greater part of the twentieth century, and one change was to cover the steps with a thick layer of cement, reaching four inches in places. We are now removing the cement, and you can see the beautiful original stone reemerging into the light of day for the first time in well over half a century.  The worn treads that are being uncovered give a real sense of connection with the history of the house.

Do let us know if you've also brought stone steps back to life - or if you plan to do so. It can be tempting to rush into it, and some loose coverings that have failed can be prised off easily enough, but best to seek expert advice first. The removal methodology differs for different coverings and the original stone may need repairs. Remember too that listed building consent is likely to be needed and that some later coverings, such as Victorian or Edwardian tiles, may well add to the historic interest and attractiveness of a property. But common-or-garden cement or asphalt is no enhancement and the effort of removal is well worth it. The results can be spectacular.

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